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Scholarship Recpient back home in the North
Northland boy, Ben Aiken recently returned home ‘in more ways than one.’ Not only has he moved back to the North after 10 years away, he’s returning to his farming roots, by taking on a new role with ASB Whangarei in the Rural banking team. As a recipient of the Whangarei A&P Society’s scholarship back in 2008, Ben would encourage others to apply for this prestigious grant, which assists University entrants studying in the primary industries. In his own words Ben describes his journey since being awarded the scholarship over the last 10 years.
What year did you receive the A&P Society scholarship and where did you attend university?
I was the recipient of the A&P Society scholarship back in 2008. I used the grant to attend the University of Waikato, where I studied Bachelor of Management studies with honours, majoring in Economics and Finance.
I was born and bred on a dairy farm in Maungatapere and up until I was 16 or 17 I thought I’d end up running the family farm. I did well at school though and found economics and finance really interesting. I always knew I wanted to work within the Rural sector but ended up doing a degree that I knew would give me options. I left University and was lucky enough to be accepted on to Westpac’s graduate programme. Over the years I moved to Auckland and then later Whanganui as a Branch Manager. Now I’ve been offered my dream job in Whangarei, as a Rural Manager here at ASB. I couldn’t be happier to be coming home in more ways than one! Not only back home physically, but also back to my rural roots.
What qualifications do you have now?
Obviously, my degree, but whilst working in the bank I’ve also had lots of opportunities for leadership training and more recently valuation papers.
What does your day to day job look like and do you like it?
Our overall mission is to help rural people achieve their goals, and for me this involves a good mix of visiting on farm chatting to people and time in the office. If I had to give a percentage I’d say 60% in the office and 40% on farm. The way my role is structured I’m the head of a three person team, so some time in the office is crucial.
What would you say to students thinking of applying for the scholarship?
I’d say two things.
The first is obviously DO IT- apply! The support the scholarship gave me was incredible. It really allowed me to focus on my studies and not worry about money. I didn’t have to get a part time job, I could just really focus on the academic side. I’m so appreciate of this and would encourage anyone thinking of studying in this area to apply. Receiving scholarships to assist with your studies can really take the pressure off.
The second thing I’d say is that there are so many opportunities in the Rural sector! There is rapid change and growth in this area at the moment. The future needs people that know how to help people in the ag industry manage their businesses, use new technology and of course look at sustainability for the future. We are going to need people to lead the change.
What are expected earnings for someone in your profession?
It really varies depending on what role you end up doing and your level of responsibility, but the thing I really like about working in a big organisation is the considerations around a total remuneration package. It’s not just about ‘earnings’. There’s a focus on wider staff benefits, flexible working, being able to undertake work development opportunities and other things like that. I’d encourage new graduates to look at it as an option and take opportunities wherever they come. I found flexibility around where I would move to has meant I’ve had some amazing opportunities I may not otherwise have had.
What’s your favourite memory of A&P shows as a child?
I was always lucky enough to be really involved in the Whangarei A&P Show. My Dad Grant Aiken was a member of the Society for years! I’ve got some great photos from when I was a teenager of me and Dad showing cattle. He’s Champion and I’m Reserve Champion- such cool memories! We’d always be given a couple of hours to run off and explore the Show once the competitions were done - Great fun!
You are back home in the North- are you still connected with the A&P Society?
I am of course a member of the Whangarei A&P Society. I also attend the Rural Business Network meetings that the Society run. I’m proud to be a part of this organisation and am happy to be an ambassador to attract youth members in to the Society and back to the rural sector in general.’
Applications for the Whangarei A&P Society’s scholarship worth $9,000 are currently open. If you are studying in the Primary Sector in 2019 or know someone that is, please pass on this information. The closing date for applications is Friday 21st September.